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TDS Suffers 29-State System Outage

CHICAGO – Sometimes, computer hard drives just go bad. Not so often, components that supply power to a server just crap out, too. Such was the case beginning at 11:57 p.m. Monday night with TDS Internet Services, which suffered a crippling power failure that ricocheted systemwide and downed dial-up and DSL users en masse, TDS Telecom spokeswoman DeAnne Boegli confirmed to ePrairie. She says service was restored at 2:40 a.m. to all users.

TDS Internet Services is a service managed by TDS Telecom, whose servers reside in Madison, Wis. It is these servers that experienced a physical UPS (uninterruptible power source) failure, according to Boegli.

The power failure was the result of components that overheated, which then triggered several alarms, she says. These alarms, though, were not effectively sensed in time by the company’s redundancy systems, which translated into a system outage for mostly residential and some business customers. These customers lost dial-up, DSL and e-mail access across the company's 29-state region.

“We’re still trying to figure out why our redundancy didn’t care of the problem. We haven’t had a failure like this in very, very long time," Boegli said. "Though we’re not yet sure what our response will be, something will happen to make sure this doesn’t happen again and that our systems are 100 percent redundant."

TDS has also been experiencing flakiness with its authentication , Boegli says. Authentication is the process of matching your user name and password with known values, which typically reside in a database or an authentication service. Boegli says authentication glitches were restored as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Because the outage affected so many people across such a large region, it can be said that TDS had a “bottleneck,” causing lots of systems to rely heavily on the performance of few systems. Customers may have experienced messages of invalid user names or passwords, timing out while connecting, the inability to browse the Web and the inability to send and receive e-mail.

The outage did not affect TDS telephone systems, Boegli says.

The company has not yet instituted a systemwide compensation package for customers and likely won't since the outage occurred in the middle of the night, according to Boegli. Calls to the company's billing department, though, revealed that billing agents are currently working with customers on an individual basis and are offering some users a one-day service credit.

TDS Telecom is referred to as an ILEC, or a telecom like SBC that goes where none other has. TDS Metrocom is a TDS Telecom-owned CLEC, or a company that competes with the dominant phone companies. All TDS services and units are owned by parent company Telephone and Data Systems, which is based in Chicago and owns 82 percent of Chicago-based U.S. Cellular.

One of the largest non-Bell telecoms in the U.S., Telephone and Data Systemsit has 4.5 million phone and wireless customers in 34 states. Wholly owned TDS Telecom has about 1 million access line equivalents in 29 states and two competitive local-exchange carriers in Minnesota and Wisconsin.


Adam Fendelman is Editor-in-Chief of and specializes in telecommunications in the Chicago area. He can be emailed at This article has been syndicated on the Wisconsin Technology Network courtesy of ePrairie , a user-driven business and technology news community distributed via the Web, the wireless Web and free daily e-mail newsletters. They can be found at

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